EUROPEAN MEDIA: France - Life after Loft Story. Natacha Sylvain rounds up the year so far in France, where its first reality TV show made a big impact on the media

2001 will be remembered in France as the year of Loft Story, the

French Big Brother. By June it had brought the commercial TV channel M6

into third place overall with an audience share of 16.5 per cent. Its

share of the 15 to 24 age group - usually light TV watchers, especially

in primetime - was a phenomenal 70 per cent.

Loft Story was impossible to escape. It was an effective daily

ratings-puller and also generated press coverage and intellectual


Le Monde and the financial press featured Loft Story, and therefore M6,

on their covers. If the channel had run a similar advertising campaign,

it would have had to pay more than $650 million.

"We had already run some programmes which flirted with reality TV, but

this time we went a step further," says Pascal Clavreux, the chairman of

Universal Media, which launched an opinion poll with the advertisers'

association (UDA) in the middle of June. Some 78 per cent of those

interviewed answered that "Loft Story meant the appearance of a totally

new type of TV programme". Its hold on viewers (an average of 6.8

million rising to a peak of ten million between 10.30 and 11pm) has

surpassed even the most optimistic forecasts.More than 400 brands have

invested in the show, including Nivea, EMI, Sony, Coca-Cola, Virgin,

Kodak, Opel and Gillette. "Advertisers just had to be there," Sebastien

Danet, the chairman of Zenith Media, explains.

Is reality TV always going to be as successful? The chairman of CIA-Le

Lab, Eric de Rugy, believes it may not sustain such enthusiasm. Of

advertisers interviewed by UDA and Universal Media last June, 90 per

cent said that they did not want to see too many similar programmes on

French TV, and 53 per cent said they would not invest in such


But it all depends on the audience. The first screening of Le Maillon

Faible (The Weakest Link) was a success. And Les Aventuriers de

Koh-Lanta (Survivor) which appeared twice each weekend during August,

attracted eight million viewers on Sundays - not bad for a month where

most of France is on holiday and not in front of the TV.

Loft Story will return in 2002. Meanwhile the duel of the autumn will be

between TF1 (Star Academy) which hopes to catch up on M6's lead in

reality TV, and M6 with Pop Stars. Launched by Endemol, Star Academy

will follow 16 boys and girls who want to be artists for three months,

and choose a winner.

Regarding print media, the big news has been the L'Oreal Group's sale of

Marie Claire to the publishing rival Hachette Filipacchi Medias for

$78 million in April. The deal between Hachette, which owns 31

international editions of the rival women's magazine Elle, and Marie

Claire (with 27 international editions) was made to help both groups

develop their magazines internationally.

And at the end of August, Jean-Marie Messier, the CEO of Vivendi

Universal, which had already sold the weekly Courrier International to

Le Monde, officially announced he was selling Vivendi's professional and

healthcare magazines and its exhibitions sector to the investment fund

Cinven for two billion euros. His next step could be the sale of

Vivendi's free press group, Comareg, and its flagship magazines

L'Express and L'Expansion.

In 2000, more than 550 new titles were launched, but the first half of

2001 has been quieter, with some closures and only a few start-ups. "A

lot of magazines about the dotcom economy have died," de Rugy


And the men's title M. Magazine also folded in June.

Among the launches were the weekly The Nouvel Hebdo (from the Tests

group), aimed at managers who use new technology, and in June Jonas, a

monthly magazine on the environment and human rights. Sebastien Danet,

the chairman of Zenith Media, highlights the monthly magazine Muteen, by

the Jalou Group, which launched at the end of August and is aimed at

girls under 20. "The main fashion and accessories advertisers are

there," he notes.

He has also picked out the launch of a "mini Cosmopolitan" this


"Is it just a one-off or a market test for the future?" he asks.

Two other launches are imminent - on 20 September Triba, a new monthly

magazine on the family, will appear from the Perdriel Group, which owns

the weekly news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur.

Its objective is to sell 150,000 copies. And in November a magazine on

luxury and lifestyle - codename "project" - will be launched by Emap

with the French movie star Catherine Deneuve.

Projected sales are 100,000 copies.

At the moment, however, the advertising sector is under pressure, with

advertisers cutting their budgets. "The landscape is changing," de Rugy

says. "There will be more sales, more mergers and more changes of

frequency. The year to come will be dominated by restructuring."


What is the brand with the most influence in your country?

Peugeot and Carrefour

What has been the most talked-about campaign this year?

Probably the Budweiser campaign by DDB, or the "reincarnation" campaign

for Axa by TBWA Paris

What has been the biggest surprise hit on TV this year?

Loft Story reality show (below, the French version, with slight

differences, of Big Brother), which was broadcast on M6

What's the latest must-read marketing book?

There have been no recent revolutionary publications

Who are the best media sales team in the country?


Which media personality gets the most column inches?

I would propose two individuals: Pierre Lescure (the CEO and a founder

of Canal +) and the French journalist Thierry Ardisson (popular on

France Television and Paris Premiere)

Who is the most feared person in the industry?

Internationally, it's probably Sir Martin Sorrell, whom I happen to have

known when I was in charge of Rothschild Bank in Paris. In France, I

would say my predecessor and founder of OMD Europe, Viviane Prat, is

among the most feared people in the industry, as well as one of the most


What's the biggest media party of the year?

The 40th anniversary of Tele 7 jours last year

Where's the best place to meet clients?

Everywhere, at any hour

What is the biggest single issue facing Europe's media industry?

The development of digital and interactive television, and the creation

of entirely new platforms (internet, mobile phones). We are going to

witness the greatest revolution ever in the delivery of information and

ad messages.